Mike Kueber's Blog

May 15, 2015

My kidney

Filed under: Biography,Medical,Philosophy — Mike Kueber @ 5:50 pm
Tags: , ,

A couple of weeks ago, NY Times columnist David Brooks proposed that his readers write their personal eulogy and submit it to him for a project he is working. He thinks that the process of writing a eulogy may cause participants to recognize what is meaningful to their lives and to shift away from things that are unimportant.  It might also prompt participants to get after things they have been putting off.

As I started writing my eulogy, I was immediately prompted by something I had been putting off for months – namely, donating a kidney.

I’ve heard of thousands of people dying each year or living a debilitating life because they couldn’t receive a kidney transplant.  Then last year, I read an article in the Express-News about a donor who started a chain of transplants by agreeing to give her kidney to a stranger, who in-turn had a relative who would donate a kidney to another stranger.  The first donor, called the altruistic donor, triggered a chain of 17 relative-friend donations.

That sounded amazing.  Why shouldn’t I become an altruistic donor by donating my kidney, especially since medical advances made the donation relatively safe and pain free?

I’ve casually mentioned this possibility to friends and family, and my M.D. son later informed me that he did some research that indicated my life expectancy would not be shortened because of the donation.

That was comforting, but due to my dawdling retirement lifestyle, I didn’t make a lot of progress toward getting this done, other than a few phone calls, until I started working on my eulogy.  My eulogy made me realize that a kidney transplant would be one of those meaningful things that I wanted to include in my eulogy.

So I went back to work on this project and made contact with a local hospital in town that specializes in transplants.  The process is underway.

In an amazing coincidence, two days after getting in contact with the hospital, I started reading a new book called The Most Good You Can Do by Peter Singer.  In the book, which describes becoming an effective altruist, donating a kidney is listed as the gold standard of altruists.

My patron saint, Ayn Rand, is probably turning over in her grave.




  1. Ms Rand would approve, as long as it is your free choice made without coercion.
    You are entitled to do that which you wish as long as YOU wish it. That IS the ultimate definition of freedom. As for selfishness? You have a selfish, feel good reason. It is all good.

    I, on the other hand, wonder why you can’t accomplish the exact same thing upon your death, by donating your organs and body, which is what I would recommend.

    Ah, because the feel good comes from….

    Comment by Bob Bevard — May 15, 2015 @ 6:15 pm | Reply

    • Bob, the reference to Ayn Rand was a flippant one that I couldn’t resist because I know how averse she was to “altruism.” By contrast, Peter Singer’s book, which is subtitled “How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas about Living Ethically,” places altruism as an essential component of an ethical life. I agree that freedom is the key.

      I just finished browsing the Singer book and now need to think about it some.

      Incidentally, Singer makes a distinction between people who give simply because it feels good (warm glow givers) and those are interested in having a real, positive impact (effective altruists).

      I have designated my organs and body for donation, but I don’t think that addresses the shortage of kidneys. Incidentally (again), Singer says that although he donates a large percentage of his income to highly effective causes, retains both his kidneys. But he didn’t explain why. I would like to know why.

      Comment by Mike Kueber — May 15, 2015 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

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